Are there any passages of scripture that you just skim through? I do this more often than I’d like to admit. Lately, when I’ve found myself skimming through a passage I will stop myself and begin again reading the words out loud. Usually, I do this when there are lists, so I will intentionally stop and pause after every word so that it will (hopefully) sink in. It’s amazing how much I’ve been able to glean from the Bible by just slowing down when I encounter lists.
Galatians 5:21 has historically been one of those lists that I just blew through without really sitting with and thinking about. Because they are listed as “works of the flesh,” I really didn’t want to be associated with those. I really just wanted to get onto the good stuff without really thinking about all of the bad stuff. But today, I want to dig into these works of the flesh. I encourage you to read through these verses slowly. Breathe at every period, pause at every comma. Notice which words stand out to you. Notice when you want to speed ahead.
“For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” Galatians 5:17-21 (ESV)
I read through this passage a few weeks ago and just had to stop and repent. While things like drunkenness and orgies and sexual immorality aren’t sins that I deal with, there are plenty of other actions in that list that I do struggle with. I am an idolator at heart because I tend to put myself (my wants, desires, and comfort) above God. I can easily become jealous or envious of others. I’m pretty competitive which can easily breed division and strife between me and another. While my life isn’t controlled by these things like it used to be (praise God!), I can still see some of these acts of the flesh in my behavior and my speech.
Reading through this again makes me incredibly grateful for the grace of God in my life. The works of the flesh that are listed here only bring separation between us and others and between us and God. All of these have a negative effect on the world around us. These works of the flesh don’t bring the freedom and abundant life that Christ makes available to us.
“For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” Galatians 5:1 (ESV)
Through Jesus’s redemptive work on the cross, we have been set free from those things that used to entangle us. Before we accepted him, we were powerless against these things. But he has set us absolutely free. Now we are in right standing with the Almighty God of the universe! We can have healthy and productive relationships with others. Since we’ve now tasted freedom, let’s not go back to those old and unhealthy ways of living. Let’s not return to our former thinking and our old patterns.
Let’s use our freedom well and run after Christ, leaving those old things behind.
Do you ever feel tempted to rush through portions of the Bible? Why do you think that is?
Does anything stand out to you in the list of the “works of the flesh?”